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ART & ARCHITECTURE: The Art - Australasia and Canada
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[29] — The colonies of the British Empire contribute a not unimportant exhibit to the general aggregation at Jackson Park. The two largest and most widely separated, those of Canada and of Australasia, are represented by separate buildings of their own, near the lake front, by separate galleries in the Fine Arts palace, and in most of the other capital divisions of the Fair. The Canadian building and that of New South Wales, the latter called the Australia House, stand near together, adjoining the Spanish Valencian Silk Exchange, and just across the road from the British Victoria House. The first named is a plain, rectangular pavilion, encompassed on all sides by a wide veranda, and embellished on the front and rear elevations by semicircular projections in the centre of the facade, that of the front rising in a circular tower above the roof. This edifice was designed by the Department of Public Works of Ottawa, and the interior is finished in native woods, highly polished to show the natural grain. Each province furnished the wood required to finish the rooms occupied by its commissioners, and the very first exhibit to reach the World’s Columbian Exposition, it is said, consisted of thirteen enormous logs for this building. The productions of all the provinces are represented by samples of the mineral, timber, agricultural, manufactured, domestic, fisheries and dairy products, — including a block of pure nickel weighing 4600 pounds, and an eleven-ton cheese.

[30] — The Australia House is somewhat more classical and ambitious in design and ornamentation, — perhaps because it represents a newer colony, and was constructed by an eminent firm of Chicago architects. Across the front of the building extends a wide portico, the roof of which is supported by six Doric columns, two-and-a-half feet in diameter and twenty feet high; a large Doric pilaster at each of the corners repeats the motif; the exterior walls terminate at the roof in a cornice, with a frieze and a balustrade, and all the openings have molded architraves and cornices, with a pair of molded modillions under each window. From the wide central hallway which traverses the interior may be seen the interior of the central polygonal dome which crowns the edifice. In strong contrast with this sophisticated little palace is the Australian squatter’s hut, situated on the eastern end of the small islet; that lies south of the large Wooded Isle; and in the ethnological department may be found fourteen Australian natives. In addition to the usual large array of practical products furnished by young countries, there are some curious diversions among the exhibits from these colonies, — such as a remarkable astronomical clock from Sydney, forty-five feet high and twenty-five feet square at the base, and one of the largest gold nuggets ever found, weighing 3,040 ounces, and appropriately christened, “The Welcome Stranger.”

In the Fine Arts building proper the two galleries devoted to Canada are placed at the entrance of the big British section, as it were, opening off the east side of the great South Court — where they suffer much from insufficient lighting — and those of New South Wales, in the corner immediately above, on the upper floor, and also in Australia House. The Canadian pictures, oils and watercolors, number ver nearly two hundred; those of the austral colonies, sculpture, paintings and drawings, two hundred and thirty; ninety-nine of these, however, are careful studies of Australasian flora, painted by Mrs. Ellis Rowan. These number are not so large when an account is taken of the proportion of art schools, institutions, etc., to be found in these outlying dependencies of the great world of art. In Canada, Ottawa has the National Art Gallery of Canada and the Art Association of Ottawa, the former under the direction of the Department of Public Works, and containing some representative examples of the great paitners of the home country, and the other, aided and encouraged by the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne, maintains a class for advanced study from the nude. In Toronto is the Royal Canadian Academy and the Ontario Society of Artists, both maintaining annual exhibitions; in Ontario, a School of Art; in Montreal, the Art Association of Montreal, and in St. John, New Brunswick, the Owens Art Institution. The Australasian colonies are still more numerously supplied. The National Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, is an important institution with a gallery of European paintings and aided by the government, the Art Society of New South Wales gives annual exhibitions, and there is also the Australian Academy of Arts, of the same city.

[31] — The National Art Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Artists’ Association are situated in Melbourne; Ballarat and Bendigo have public art galleries, and thirty-six schools of design are established in various parts of this colony. In South Australia, the National Art Gallery of the province and a school of design are located in Adelaide; Queensland proposes to establish an art gallery; Western Australia opened its first annual exhibition of paintings in Perth in June, 1890, and Tasmania has an Art Society which holds annual exhibitions at Hobart. In addition to all these there is a comprehensive Royal Anglo-Australian Society of Artists under the management of a joint Committee of Guarantors from the three colonies. Even New Zealand has six Societies of Art, Schools of Art, Fine Arts Associations, etc.

As a recent writer on the “Art of Australia” remarks — “Reverie, the cradle of artistic imagination, does not suit the frame of mind of pioneers,” and the themes which have inspired these newer artists are those which might be expected to spring more naturally from the soil of a new country. Not but what there have been instances of more imaginative painters, — there is Mr. Rupert C. W. Bunny, an Australian, for example, whose work is well known in England and who exhibited at the Salon of 1893, a so-called “Pastoral,” a young Orpheus, fluting on the seashore, a young girl’s head on his shoulder and the fauns and the mermaids sitting attentive by. Unfortunately, this artist does not appear in the Jackson Park galleries. Probably the best-known Canadian artist in Europe — after Mr. Wyatt Eaton who has become practically a citizen of the United States — is Mr. Paul Peel, of the Royal Canadian Academy, recently deceased, who has exhibited at the Paris Salons and elsewhere certain genre compositions quite acceptable in technical qualities and sometimes with a charming touch of humor. Here, Mr. Peel is represented by a “Venetian Bather,” scarcely one of his best works. But in general this colonial art is of the more direct kind, as may be seen in the examples chosen for reproduction in these pages.

Much the most ambitious of these is MR. HENRY SANDHAM’s cheerful, decoratively arranged, — perhaps a trifle too much like a scene from a light opera — “FOUNDING OF MARYLAND, MARCH 27, 1634.” The necessary negotiations with the native red men for the transferral of their rights are carried on in the foreground in the usual picturesque manner; the bulky movable property of the new settlers is carried ashore by the willing sailors; and in the middle distance Lord Baltimore’s musketeers, drawn up with military precision, fire a salute in the air all along the line, like one man, without, apparently, attracting any attention to themselves. Mr. Sandham now lives in Boston, Mass., and is know in this country also as an illustrator. His picture will be found among the full-page etchings. Among the textual cuts are given three more compositions in which the circumstances of time and place have enabled the painters to form a more intimate acquaintance with their subjects, — MR. KNOWLES’ carefully studied and rendered plein air,’PERCE FISHERMEN, GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE,” and Mr. G. A. Reid’s two interiors, [32] “FORECLOSURE OF THE MORTGAGE,” and “VISIT OF THE CLOCK-MAKER.” Mr. Knowles’ fishermen are seriously absorbed in their occupation and not at all concerned about the painter; Mr. Reid’s sitters have been more calculating, and have disposed themselves in the most advantageous manner with regard to lighting, effect, etc. Nevertheless, they contrive to render the situation very clearly, and the old clock-maker, with the window light sifting through his hoary locks, is conscientiously and naturally at his work. Mr. Reid exhibits a number of paintings, and Mr. Knowles only this one watercolor. Both artists are members of the Royal Canadian Academy.

Landscape naturally occupies very much of the attention of the painters of a new society; and is naturally rendered by them in a more or less topographically-accurate method, but an example in which something more has been felt than the engineer or the photographer would have experienced in the same situation may be seen in the full-page reproduction of MR. C. H. HUNT’s rendering of the beautiful harbor of SYDNEY, a deservedly favorite subject with the Australian landscapists. This view is taken from the north shore, at early evening, and something of the peacefulness and mellowness of the oldest of legends seems to settle over this pioneer’s bay. This painting is one of a loan collection exhibited by the Trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, as is also MR. W. LISTER’s watercolor reproduction of “STONEHENGE, NEW ENGLAND,” in which the facts are judiciously given and the immaterial things mostly left out. And something of the real national flavor — evidences of being that growth of the soil which, we are told, all national art should be — may be found in MR. FRANK P. MAHONEY’s “AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD,” with its spirited and intelligent rendering of some nameless backwoods encounter. This picture was first shown at the annual exhibition of the New South Wales Art Society in 1892. The sculpture exhibit from these colonies consists of five works, three portrait busts, one in marble, some specimens of fruits in New South Wales marble, and a figure of “Diana” in New South Wales freestone.

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Last Updated: February 20, 1999